Saturday, January 17, 2009

More of Medellin

There he is, kissing butt again. This was taken inside the Botero museum.
These next ones are all the sculptures that were outside in the plaza.

I have to explain this picture. We were walking around the neighborhood on Christmas morning, making a last stop at the grocery store I think, and we saw a guy dressed up as a clown just moseying down the street. I guess clowns have to work on Christmas in Colombia or something. Or maybe this was his costume to scare all the kids in his family get together? Who knows. It was odd, to say the least.
Just another view of the mountains in Medellin.

This one was taken in the neighborhood close to our hotel, in the plaza of course.

One of the many beautiful churches that Colombia is known for, they seem to be everywhere.
At this point, we're only one-third of the way through our trip, so there's a lot more to come...

Friday, January 16, 2009


Cesar, being holy for Christmas.
On the balcony in Medellin. Notice I'm wearing a light sweater, my favorite kind of weather!

Our Christmas tree, located just outside of the hotel.

A view from the balcony.

Cesar, enjoying the view as well.

What can I write about Medellin? Nothing but good things. Cesar put it best when he said he "fell in love with it." The Lonely Planet guidebook, our not so accurate bible throughout the trip, said something about how Medellin may have formerly been known as the infamous home of Pablo Escobar and his regime, but is now one of Colombia's most organized and safe cities. It also said something about how you can look in any direction in Medellin and see a gorgeous view. This was definitely true, both statements. The pictures do not give it justice, it really was just gorgeous. The constant Spring-like, minus the rain, perfect weather didn't hurt either. It was so great to spend Christmas in Medellin with my boyfriend. I'd recommend it as a romantic getaway to anyone.

We stayed in a very affordable hotel suite. We wanted to have access to a refrigerator and kitchen since we knew we'd be there for Christmas and would probably want to cook a meal or two. Cesar is an awesome cook (and I have no interest or knowledge in that arena) so it works out quite well. We stayed in a really nice neighborhood called El Poblado, where there are tons of restaurants and boutiques, and a grocery store down the street that supplied many of our snacks and meals. The best part, though, was our balcony, overlooking the city. We took a million pictures of the view from up there, but none of them are as satisfying as it actually looked.
The other thing that Medellin is famous for is their hometown famous artist, Botero. There is a whole plaza dedicated to his voluptuous sculptures (I'll post pictures of that next time) and there is a museum housing many of his paintings. To get there, we got to hop on a metro train, which was fun. I believe it cost about $0.75 each way. I don't know why, but I get a real thrill out of taking another cities' public transportation, so that was a highlight for me. The people were overall some of the warmest and friendliest people I'd ever encountered in my life. There was a group of ladies standing behind Cesar and I on the metro, listening to us speak in English. They told Cesar (in Spanish) that they wanted to practice, but I think that was our stop, so it didn't actually happen.

We loved Medellin so much that we stayed an extra night, four nights in all. Much to the delight of my lazier side, we spent all of Christmas day watching a marathon of Rock of Love 2. Cesar had never seen the show, so who was I to deny him of such a treat on Christmas?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Christmas Vacation by Carrie Regan

Just like that classic back to school essay after the holidays (which I did also assign to my students just today in fact), I thought I would share my travel adventures with my guy Cesar over the holidays. I have to do it in parts because we literally traveled for the whole three weeks that he was here. It was quite the adventure!

We started out in Bogota, Colombia's capital. I couldn't wait to get there, not only because it'd been 5 months since I'd seen Cesar, but also because I love big cities and I'd been missing Chicago a lot. We luckily were able to find each other at the airport, I'd told him to meet me at the El Corral, which is Colombia's equivalent of McDonald's.

We stayed in a neighborhood called Usaquen, which is in the North of the city. We didn't venture too far, as I hadn't researched much to do in Bogota at that point and our neighborhood seemed to have everything we needed, good food and shopping. We were only there for two nights and I knew we'd end the trip back there. The plan was to leave on day two and head to the bus terminal to catch a ride to a town halfway to Medellin, find a place to stay, and then head to Medellin the following day. What I never anticipated was that the bus terminal would be so packed with holiday travelers, that we would have to spend almost an entire day there waiting.
Let me just backtrack a bit and say that in my experience so far in Colombia, you don't have to plan ANYTHING in advance, including travel by bus. You basically just show up to the terminal and there's a bus leaving within the hour to your desired destination. In fact, I'd been told that the ticket sellers will laugh in your face if you even try to book anything as far in advance as a day before. So, with this prior knowledge, I thought it would be perfectly fine to show up mid-morning to catch a bus halfway to Medellin. I was wrong. With lines that rival O'Hare Airport at Thanksgiving, it was a mad rush to try to find even one bus company that wasn't sold out for the day and night headed to Medellin. We quickly realized that we weren't going to be able to stop halfway, as originally planned, and we had to decide if we were going to stick around so that MAYBE we could get on a night bus, or if we should just leave and go find a hotel in Bogota for another night and then get on a bus super early the next morning. The problem was, we had all our luggage with us, we had no place in Bogota to stay, and we didn't necessarily want to spend 9 hours the whole next day on a bus.
So, one guy that worked for one company, told us that he could most likely get us 2 seats on a night bus, but that we'd have to give him a little "tip" and that it wasn't a definite thing. We decided to risk it, which meant spending the next 5 hours or so waiting in a crowded, uncomfortable, metal chair. I think for Cesar this was his first experience with culture shock. You had to pay to go to the bathroom, and the bathrooms were not worth paying for, trust me. You had to bribe people to get on a bus. You had to sit across from huge families of people with their 9 kids and watch them share one meal of chicken and rice. You had to move your wheeled luggage out of the way for the gigantic carts wheeling around giant potato sacks filled with people's belongings. Maybe it was culture shock for me, now that I think about it.

Well, we did get on the night bus to Medellin as sort of promised by the guy. It was supposed to be about an 8 hour trip, give or take. What I didn't exactly expect was that the bus would be going the whole way through the mountains on VERY windy roads. I also didn't know that our driver would be passing cars the entire time, or that when you looked out the window that you would see the abyss of pitch black over the side of the mountain. I also didn't know that the switchbacks would be so severe that it would be next to impossible to sleep. The one good thing was that the seats were very comfortable and there was plenty of leg room. Needless to say, we arrived in Medellin a bit worn out from our day and night of travel. To be continued...